We may smile at the natural youthful desire to air his reading, and his art appreciation, and we may find his opinions not without interest. We may even commend them--in part. Perhaps we no longer count the leaves on Church's trees, but Goldsmith and Cervantes still deserve the place assigned them.
He does not tell us what boat he was on at this time, but later in the year he was with Bixby again, on the Alonzo Child. We get a bit of the pilot in port in his next.
To Orion Clemens, in Keokuk, Iowa:
"ALONZO CHILD," N. ORLEANS, Sep. 28th 1860. DEAR BROTHER,--I just received yours and Mollies letter yesterday--they had been here two weeks--forwarded from St. Louis. We got here yesterday--will leave at noon to-day. Of course I have had no time, in 24 hours, to do anything. Therefore I'll answer after we are under way again. Yesterday, I had many things to do, but Bixby and I got with the pilots of two other boats and went off dissipating on a ten dollar dinner at a French restaurant breathe it not unto Ma!--where we ate sheep-head, fish with mushrooms, shrimps and oysters--birds--coffee with brandy burnt in it, &c &c,-ate, drank and smoked, from 2 p.m. until 5 o'clock, and then--then the day was too far gone to do any thing.
Please find enclosed and acknowledge receipt of--$20.00 In haste SAM L. CLEMENS
It should be said, perhaps, that when he became pilot Jane Clemens had released her son from his pledge in the matter of cards and liquor. This license did not upset him, however. He cared very little for either of these dissipations. His one great indulgence was tobacco, a matter upon which he was presently to receive some grave counsel. He reports it in his next letter, a sufficiently interesting document. The clairvoyant of this visit was Madame Caprell, famous in her day. Clemens had been urged to consult her, and one idle afternoon concluded to make the experiment. The letter reporting the matter to his brother is fragmentary, and is the last remaining to us of the piloting period.
Fragment of a letter to Orion Clemens, in Keokuk, Iowa:
NEW ORLEANS February 6, 1862. .....She's a very pleasant little lady--rather pretty--about 28,--say 5 feet 2 and one quarter--would weigh 116--has black eyes and hair--is polite and intelligent--used good language, and talks much faster than I do.
She invited me into the little back parlor, closed the door; and we were alone. We sat down facing each other. Then she asked my age. Then she put her hands before her eyes a moment, and commenced talking as if she had a good deal to say and not much time to say it in. Something after this style:
MADAME. Yours is a watery planet; you gain your livelihood on the water; but you should have been a lawyer--there is where your talents lie: you might have distinguished yourself as an orator, or as an editor; you have written a great deal; you write well--but you are rather out of practice; no matter--you will be in practice some day; you have a superb constitution, and as excellent health as any man in the world; you have great powers of endurance; in your profession your strength holds out against the longest sieges, without flagging; still, the upper part of your lungs, the top of them is slightly affected--you must take care of yourself; you do not drink, but you use entirely too much tobacco; and you must stop it; mind, not moderate, but stop the use of it totally; then I can almost promise you 86 when you will surely die; otherwise look out for 28, 31, 34, 47, and 65; be careful--for you are not of a long- lived race, that is on your father's side; you are the only healthy member of your family, and the only one in it who has anything like the certainty of attaining to a great age--so, stop using tobacco, and be careful of yourself.....